While our physical offices are closed until further notice in accordance with Austin's COVID-19 "stay home-work safe" order, the Handbook of Texas will remain available at no-cost for you, your fellow history enthusiasts, and all Texas students currently mandated to study from home. If you have the capacity to help us maintain our online Texas history resources during these uncertain times, please consider making a 100% tax-deductible contribution today. Thank you for your support of TSHA and Texas history. Donate Today »


Susan Allen Kline

LAWRENCE, FRANCIS LEE (1926–1996). Francis Lee (F. Lee) Lawrence, lawyer, historian, and preservationist, son of Elizabeth (Oberthier) and W. (William) Dewey Lawrence, was born in Paris, Texas, on May 21, 1926. He was educated in Tyler public schools and then attended Tyler Junior College before serving in the United States Navy for two years during World War II. He was stationed in Orange, Texas, and was discharged as a yeoman third class. Following the war, he attended Texas Christian University and eventually graduated from Southern Methodist University School of Law in 1950 and began practicing law in Tyler. In 1951 he, his father, and brother, William D. Lawrence, Jr., established the law firm of Lawrence and Lawrence in that city. He was of counsel to the firm of Lawrence, McNally & Cooper, L.L.P. from 1992 to 1996.

Lawrence was active in numerous organizations associated with his profession. While at Southern Methodist University, he served as president of both Phi Alpha Delta Law Fraternity and The Barristers, an honorary scholastic fraternity. He was a member of the Smith County Bar Association (serving a term as its president) and the State Bar of Texas. He was a life fellow of the Texas Bar Foundation and a member of the Texas Association of Bank Counsel and State Bar Committee on Bankruptcy and Reorganization.

Lawrence served on the State Democratic Executive Committee from 1958 to 1960. He was a member of the Fifth Street Presbyterian Church in Tyler. Lawrence was affiliated with numerous civic, business, cultural, and educational institutions. He served on the board of directors of the Middle Sabine River Navigation District; Tyler Bank & Trust Company; Tyler Savings & Loan; Invest-Tex, Inc.; People’s Life Insurance Company; Falcon Seaboard, Inc.; NCNB National Bank, Tyler; East Texas Historical Association; and the Tyler-Smith County Library Foundation. He served on the board of trustees of Texas Christian University; was president of the Texas Rose Festival Association and the YMCA of Tyler; chairman of the Carnegie Public Library, Tyler; and vice president of the Tyler Chamber of Commerce. He was a member of the American Quarter Horse Association, Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association, and the Philosophical Society of Texas. As a Mason, Lawrence held memberships in St. John’s Lodge, No. 53 A.F. & A.M.; Tyler, Chapter No. 24, R.A.M.; Geo. M. Patrick Council No. 13, R & S. M.; Ascension Commandery No. 25, K.T.; 32 degree Scottish Rite, Waco Consistory; and Sharon Temple A.A.O.N.M.S.

In addition to his professional endeavors, Lawrence had a lifelong passion for Texas history and served on numerous boards and commissions. In 1959 Governor Price Daniel appointed him to the Texas State Historical Survey Committee (later named the Texas Historical Commission), and he served that state agency for four years. During his tenure, he collaborated with John Ben Shepperd and Dr. Rupert N. Richardson in originating the State Historical Marker Program. He and Dr. Robert Glover wrote the application for the state’s first marker which was erected at Camp Ford near Tyler. During this period, Lawrence helped establish historical societies in Shelby, San Augustine, Rusk, and Gregg counties. He served on the Texas Civil War Centennial Commission from 1960 to 1965. He served as president of numerous historical organizations including the Texas State Historical Association, Texas Historical Foundation, Smith County Historical Society (founding member), and East Texas Historical Association (founding member). In 1995 he was appointed to the Texas Historical Commission.

As a historian, Lawrence wrote or cowrote numerous articles for historical and professional publications, including submissions to the Chronicles of Smith County and Texas Bar Journal. He also authored several books—Camp Ford, CSA: The Story of Union Prisoners in Texas (coauthored with Dr. Robert W. Glover, 1964), Cunningham Family Centennial Reunion, 1889–1989 (1989), and Texas War Horses (1995). He was copublisher of Tyler and Smith County, Texas: An Historical Survey (1976), a project of the Tyler and Smith County Bicentennial Committee.

Among his favorite accomplishments was his acquisition in 1985 of Mountain Creek Ranch and the pioneer homestead of his great-great grandfather James Cunningham in Comanche County, Texas. With the assistance of architect Raiford Stripling, the family’s home was restored to its 1870s appearance. The restoration was awarded the John Ben Shepperd, Jr. Award for historic preservation by the Texas Historical Foundation. The homestead is a recorded Texas Historic Landmark and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Cunningham descendants hold their annual reunion every year not far from the homestead in Newburg. The reunion, believed to be the oldest continuous family reunion in Texas, celebrated its centennial in 1989, in recognition of which the Texas Historical Commission placed a marker on the Cunningham family reunion grounds.

For his dedicated service to the cause of history and historic preservation, Lawrence received numerous honors and awards. They included the Award for Meritorious Service in Historical Preservation (State of Texas, 1963), Ralph W. Steen Award (East Texas Historical Association, 1978), honorary admission to Phi Beta Kappa (1978), Mary Moody Northen Award (Texas Historical Foundation, 1994), Ruth Lester Award (Texas Historical Commission, 1995), Preservation Award (Historic Tyler, Inc. 1995), and the Governor’s Award for Historic Preservation, which was presented in June 1996, a month before his death.

Lawrence married Virginia Ann Lewis on August 28, 1954. They had three daughters; Frances Ann Lawrence, Amy Jane Lawrence Walton, and Mary Elizabeth Lawrence Cannan Berry. He died of cancer in Tyler on July 10, 1996, and was buried in Rose Hill Cemetery.


J. P. Bryan, Jr., The Eulogy of F. Lee Lawrence (Virginia Ann Lewis Lawrence, 1997). Dallas Morning News, December 15, 1959; March 28, 1965. “Foundation Presents 1994 Preservation Awards in San Angelo,” Heritage 12 (Spring 1994). Patricia Haas, “The Celebration and Preservation of the Cunningham Legacy,” Heritage 8 (Fall 1990). Tyler Morning Telegraph, July 12, 1996.

Image Use Disclaimer

All copyrighted materials included within the Handbook of Texas Online are in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 related to Copyright and “Fair Use” for Non-Profit educational institutions, which permits the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA), to utilize copyrighted materials to further scholarship, education, and inform the public. The TSHA makes every effort to conform to the principles of fair use and to comply with copyright law.

For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml

If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.


The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Handbook of Texas Online, Susan Allen Kline, "LAWRENCE, FRANCIS LEE," accessed June 03, 2020, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/flaab.

Uploaded on December 18, 2012. Modified on December 19, 2012. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
visit the mytsha forums to participate

View these posts and more when you register your free MyTSHA account.

Call for Papers: Texas Center for Working-Class Studies Events, Symposia, and Workshops
Hi all! You may be interested in this call for papers I received from the Texas Center for Working-Class Studies at Collin College...

Katy Jennings' Ride Scholarly Research Request
I'm doing research on Catherine Jennings Lockwood, specifically the incident known as "Katy Jennings' Ride." Her father was Gordon C. Jennings, the oldest man to die at the Alamo...

Texas Constitution of 1836 Co-Author- Elisha Pease? Ask a Historian
The TSHA profile of Elisha Marshall Pease states that he wrote part of the Texas Constitution although he was only a 24 year-old assistant secretary (not elected). I cannot find any other mention of this authorship work by Pease in other credible research about the credited Constution authors...